Mike Swanson

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    IE9’s Stunning Text Rendering Quality


    If you follow my blog, you may know that I’m deeply involved in the planning and execution of our PDC, MIX, and Tech·Ed events (including Tech·Ed Europe). My team works on keynotes and content (sessions, hands-on labs, workshops, etc.), among many other things. As a matter of fact, I have an open position on my team for someone who can plan, build, and maintain the public and internal web tools for our big tier-1 events. Apply, if you’re interested. But I digress…

    During the lead-up to our MIX10 event this spring, I knew that one of the features that Steven Sinofsky and Dean Hachamovitch would show in our day 2 keynote (demo starts at 19:00) was the hardware-accelerated text quality in IE9. The feature takes advantage of DirectWrite, ClearType, and sub-pixel positioning to improve font quality and readability. This additional precision allows glyphs to start “within” a pixel and not just at their boundaries resulting in more precise and consistent glyph spacing and proportions. This article on ClearType does a good job explaining some of the magic, even though it’s focused on WPF.

    If you’re like me, when you hear “sub-pixel positioning” and glyphs that start “within” a pixel, you probably think, “yeah…right!” The MIX10 keynote demo certainly shows an improvement, but Steven and Dean had to zoom pretty far into the text to illustrate the difference. Fast forward to this past weekend.

    Recently, I’ve been spending time on an upcoming project for my good friends at MIX Online (just down the hall from me in building 24). The project involves working with the HTML5 canvas element, and I’ve been performing most of my tests with IE9 Platform Preview 3. This weekend, I decided to run some of my test files (HTML and JavaScript) with the latest versions of Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Honestly, I didn’t expect to find many differences. So imagine my surprise when I saw these results (in alphabetical order):

    Update: Some users were reporting that IE8 was automatically resizing these images because of their width. So, I've cropped the images to avoid this behavior. If the images still look "squashed," you can click to view them directly.





    What a difference! Look at the rendering quality, readability, and positioning of the text. These are unmodified screenshots from the latest versions of the browsers running on Windows 7 with ClearType enabled. All of the text is rendered with the canvas .fillText command and there are no bitmap images…everything is either text or drawn to the canvas with vectors. I encourage you to try similar tests with your own content. I think you’ll be surprised!

    If want to learn more about the technology behind all of this, take a moment to read about the hardware accelerated canvas support in IE9 on the ieblog.

    And, of course, I love it when people take the time to send me a quick email. What do you think?

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    MIX10 Wrap Up


    Wow! What a week. The MIX10 event is over, and I hope that everyone made it home safely. It was great to meet everyone in-person, and I love that we referred to each other by our Twitter handles (I heard “Hi, Anyware” many times this week). I thought I’d provide some early data on the event that you might find interesting.

    Thank you for attending MIX10, even if your “attendance” is online. Enjoy the keynote and session recordings, leave some feedback, or drop me an e-mail.

    Until next time!

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    MIX10 Surprise Room Upgrades


    When we host a big event, the destination city usually rolls out the proverbial red carpet because of the additional business we bring to the area. This red carpet treatment often extends to the visitors bureau, the convention center, and the nearby hotels. The deal almost always involves committing to a certain number of hotel rooms that we expect to fill. This is called our “room block,” and for MIX10, we sold out our room block awhile ago. As a thank you for our business, the hotel provides us with some nice room upgrades.

    In past years, we’ve given the upgrades to members of the team who put in countless hours to ensure that we deliver the best event possible. We never told them in advance, and they were always surprised when they checked-in to their room. It was a fun way to show appreciation for a job well done.

    As someone who’s been upgraded (to rooms that have more square footage than my house…and no, I’m not kidding), it’s absolutely exciting to open the door to discover such a palatial spread. The problem is, most of us are so busy running the actual event that we never spend any time in the hotel room. And other than sleeping, I don’t spend much time in the room at all.

    What a waste.

    So, starting last year, we decided to randomly give the room upgrades to our attendees. Many attendees travel to Las Vegas with their significant others, and what better surprise than to land after a long flight and check-in to a huge and luxurious room. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

    For MIX10, we’ve randomly selected 22 attendees who will each receive a complimentary upgrade. That means that their room rate won’t change, and these lucky people will get to enjoy the spoils of an amazing space!

    Here are some specifications and photos of the upgraded rooms:

    • 1 x Media Suite – this suite is 2,170 square feet (bigger than some houses), includes 1 1/2 baths, a separate parlor, a 65” plasma HDTV (+ a few others), imported stone floors, and more. If you’re the lucky person who gets this upgrade, it’s almost mandatory that you throw a party. :-)
      Media Suite
    • 1 x Vista Suite – this suite is 1,705 square feet, has a 180-degree view of the strip and mountains, includes a separate parlor, living room, dining room, and bar area, has 1 1/2 baths, a 50” LCD High Definition TV, imported stone floors, and more. Be sure to right-click on the door and select “Run as Administrator” for UAC-free living during your stay.
      Vista Suite
    • 5 x X2 Suite – still huge at 1,450 square feet, with 2 bedrooms, separate parlor and living areas, a view of the strip/beach/pool/mountains, 2 bathrooms, a 42” High Definition Plasma TV, a separate parlor, and more.
    • 5 x Spa Suite - 610 square feet, with views of the beach/pool/mountains, a 42” High Definition Plasma TV, and more.
    • 10 x Great Room Suite - 765 square feet, with views of strip/mountains, a “unique playpen couch” (sounds very Vegas to me), and more.

    We’ve already selected the lucky attendees, and they’ll be informed via e-mail within the next few days. If you end up in one of these suites, please take some photos and share them on Flickr or Twitter. We’ll all be jealous.

    Good luck, and I’ll see you in Vegas!

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    All About MIX10


    MIX10 Logo Here we are, only three short weeks away from our MIX10 event in Las Vegas. It’s been over 5 months (!) since my last update…the longest dry spell in my 5+ year blogging history. My front page still has old PDC2008 information on it! Anyway, I’m long overdue for a MIX10-related post, and I have a lot to cover, so I’m going to do this in bullet-point form and in no particular order.

    • Windows Phone 7 Series – Honestly, it was tough to keep this one under wraps, especially with something this exciting. If you haven’t watched the Mobile World Congress keynote with Steve Ballmer, Joe Belfiore, and Andy Lees yet, go do that first. It’s a great introduction.

      We have 12 Windows Phone sessions, and while we haven’t revealed the real titles and descriptions yet, know that MIX10 is the best place to learn how to build applications and games for Windows Phone 7 Series. You’ll be introduced to the development platform and we’ll show you how to use the tools. Best of all, attendees will receive exclusive free developer support.

      To stay in-the-loop on Windows Phone 7 Series-related information, be sure to follow @ckindel on Twitter.
    • Keynoters – Back by popular demand is Bill Buxton, recently honored as one of BusinessWeek’s World’s Most Influential Designers. Bill was a favorite at MIX09, and we received a lot of positive attendee feedback about how accessible Bill was in the hallways between sessions. Well, Bill loved it just as much, and he’s excited to be back again this year.

      MIX veteran, Scott Guthrie, returns to the stage as one of our highest-rated keynote speakers. I’ve been working with Scott and his team on keynotes and demos for the past few months, and I have to say that I’m excited about what he has to show this year. Well, I’m excited every year, but MIX10 feels special. Be sure to watch Bill and Scott in the MIX09 day 1 keynote.

      The astute among you may remember MIX10 keynoter, Joe Belfiore, and his Beyond the Browser general session from MIX06 (the first year of the conference). He’s back this year, and as the Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone Program Management, you can probably guess what he’s going to talk about.

      Last, but certainly not least, is Dean Hachamovitch, another MIX veteran and General Manager of Internet Explorer. You can watch Dean in last year’s MIX09 day 2 keynote. To get a sense of what his team has been up to, watch the PDC09 day 2 keynote with Steven Sinofsky, and jump to 39:34.
    • Twitter – Have you tried Twitter yet? If you haven’t, MIX10 is a good time to start. It won’t cost you a thing, and I think you’ll find that you learn a lot more about what’s going on at the event. We’re still three weeks out, and I count 106 tweets just today (it’s easy to search for MIX10-related tweets). It’s like a separate and parallel conversation full of tidbits and useful nuggets of information, especially during the event.

      Here’s a chart showing the number of unique tweets (not including re-tweets) per day around last year’s MIX09 event. Pre-conference workshops happened on March 17th, and the main event ran from March 18th through March 20th. As you can see, there is a lot of Twitter activity!

      MIX09 Tweets

      After you’ve signed up, be sure to follow @MIXEvent for all of our official conference communications. If you’d like to hang out with fellow tweeps (and get some free drinks…at least until the tab runs out), RSVP for the MIX10 Tweetup on Sunday, March 14th at 9:00pm.

      If you decide to tweet about the event, include the #MIX10 hashtag so we can all hear you. And if you’re really bored (is this even possible in Las Vegas?), follow me at @Anyware.
    • Channel 9 Live – Similar to PDC09, Nic Fillingham (@nicfill) and crew are planning to broadcast live content during most of MIX10. Watch the 10-minute Countdown to MIX10: Let’s do it Live for the details and follow @ch9live on Twitter.
    • Attendee directory – Share your contact information in the directory that becomes available around one week before the conference. It’s a great way to contact other attendees who have decided to share their information. It’s completely optional, and only registered attendees will be able to see it.

      First, use your Windows Live ID to login to the registration page. Then, scroll down to the Attendee Directory section where you can edit your details (First Name, Last Name, Company, Role, E-mail Address, Blog/Podcast URL, and Twitter Username). Share as much or as little as you’d like.
    • Session times – While we haven’t officially announced it anywhere yet, we’re hoping to publish session dates, times, and rooms around March 1st. So, if you’re trying to put together a session attack plan, keep checking the session list.
    • My Sessions – Help us schedule the most popular sessions in the biggest rooms by adding your favorite sessions to your own personal My Sessions list. Note that your list isn’t a “reservation” or commitment to attend a session…it’s just a convenient way for us to monitor interest and for you to manage your schedule. As an attendee, you can show up for any session you’d like at any time.

      To manage your list, first login to the MIX10 site with your Windows Live ID, then click “Add this to my schedule” for any session that interests you. Click “My Sessions” on the right-hand side to list your selected sessions. Click “printer friendly” to print your sessions. After we’ve published session dates, times, and rooms (around March 1st), you’ll also be able to add the sessions to Outlook (or any calendar application that understands ICS files).

      While it’s not a completely fair list, here are the current top 10 sessions based on how many people have added them to their My Sessions list. Why do I say it’s not fair? Well, some of these have been published and available longer than others, so they’ve had more time for people to add them.
    • Countdown to MIX10 – Jennifer Ritzinger and I record a weekly 10-minute show where we discuss the MIX10 conference. To-date, we’ve recorded 9 MIX10 shows that you can find here:

    • Who attends – During registration, we ask a few simple survey questions of our attendees. Here are some of the interesting data points.

      • 1/3 of MIX10 attendees have attended a MIX event in the past.
      • The three most popular tools that our attendees use are ASP.NET, SQL Server, and Silverlight (in that order).
      • The top three goals for attending MIX10 are “to learn about new products and technologies,” “to see Microsoft’s roadmap and vision,” and “to learn best practices.”
      • When asked to position a slider between “designer” and “developer” (where designer = 1 and developer = 9), the average response is 4.52 – right down the middle. 12% of attendees report that they’re neither a designer nor a developer. WHAT ARE YOU, MAN!?!?
      • The most popular MIX10 attendee first name is Michael. What can I say?
      • Most of our attendees (52%) “build or develop web sites for others.”
      • MIX10 attendees come from 56 countries. After the U.S., most attendees come from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, France, and Japan.
    • RSS/OData – Did you know that MIX10 session data is available via RSS? Soon, we’ll also be exposing session data using the Open Data Protocol (as an aside, we have a couple of sessions on OData at the event). For anyone who wants to build their own session tool or simply wants to convert the data to other formats, this is the way to do it. Yes, both formats will include session dates, times, and rooms when that information is made available.
    • Live Streaming and Session Recordings – As always, we’ll stream the day 1 and day 2 keynotes live from the home page. And like PDC09, we’ll be using Smooth Streaming for the highest quality experience.

      Also, like prior events, all sessions will be recorded and published within 24 hours of their completion. Secondary formats (like lower bitrate and MP4 files) will appear as they are encoded; this usually takes a little bit longer.

      If you can’t afford to attend MIX10, or if you just can’t get out of the office, at least you’ll be able to view the keynotes and sessions online. Note that we don’t record the pre-conference workshops, and those will not be available for online viewing or download.
    • MIX10 GadgetMIX10 Internal Gadget – I mentioned this internal Windows 7 gadget in one of our Countdown to MIX10 shows, and ever since, people have asked to see what it looks like. Well, here it is. Note that I’ve replaced the numbers and changed the bars and tick marks, but this should still give you an idea of what it displays.

      While we can always login to our registration site and dig through all of the registration details, I wrote the first version of this gadget many events ago so that we could monitor registrations at-a-glance. It connects to a backend database and polls for new data every 15 minutes (or longer…it’s a configuration option). If there are any new registrations, it makes a sound; it’s fun to hear the sound during a meeting.

      ”General” reports the number of general attendees (i.e. not staff, Microsoft employees, etc.). The gray bar below the number shows progress as a percentage, and the tick mark indicates where we hope to be by the end of the current week. As mentioned, I’ve removed the numbers and changed the bar and tick marks for this example.

      ”Prior attendee” is as it sounds…it’s the percentage of attendees who have been at a prior MIX event. The green “up arrows” next to MIX08 and MIX09 mean that—as a percentage—we’re ahead of registrations for the same T-minus week for those prior events.

      ”BIS” indicates how many physical people we have to accommodate at the event. We don’t have projections for this number, so there is no tick mark on the bar graph.

      ”Wrkshops” reports how many attendees have signed-up for pre-conference workshops.

      ”Reg Site” is a link directly to our backend registration site, and “Event Site” takes us to the public event site.
    • Ask the Experts – Do you have a tough/niggling (yes, it’s a real word) question that’s been driving you crazy? Or do you have feedback to share about a product or technology? Show up Monday night from 5:00pm – 6:30pm for Ask the Experts, where Microsoft employees and third-party experts will be on-hand. Even if you don’t have anything specific to ask, it’s fun to lurk and listen.
    • Event Tips – Thomas Lewis (@TommyLee), purveyor of the fabulous and award-winning MIX Online, has published The Devil’s Field Guide to MIX09, and it’s just as valid for MIX10. Read it.
    • Infrastructure – I asked our infrastructure expert to give me some geeky stats about the on-site network that we configure (no, it doesn’t come with the facility rental). Here are a few tidbits.

      • As before, free wireless will be available in the keynote room, the session rooms, and most of the public areas. If you get a wireless signal in the restrooms, consider yourself lucky…I guess. :-)
      • MIX10 will have 354Mbps of total network bandwidth. About 200Mbps is allocated to the wireless network, 100Mbps is used for the show, and 45Mbps is reserved for keynote backup (though we add it to the overall pool when the keynotes are over).
      • The wireless network supports 802.11A, B, and G. Depending on bandwidth consumption, we have the ability to rate-limit A and G. You’d be surprised how many people like to stream or download session videos back into the event center.
      • We use Xirrus XN16 Arrays, each containing 16 radio units.
    • Get Lamp – Completely unrelated to MIX10 (seriously)…if you’re a fan of the old Infocom text adventures, I expect this soon-to-be-released documentary called Get Lamp to be awesome. Jason’s BBS: The Documentary was fantastic. Xyzzy.

    I hope to see you at MIX10!

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Evolving the PDC09 Event Site


    Did you know that the PDC is assembled and run by the same group that does MIX? At this year’s MIX09 in Las Vegas, we hired a company to facilitate seven on-site focus groups, each comprised of around 10 attendees. While the questions covered a broad range of event topics, many related to our “online experience.” Here is a small sample of verbatim comments:

    • “this year's site is difficult to navigate: hard to find info about sessions and content”
    • “more pre-data should be given: concentrate on schedule and speakers”
    • “Integrate identity of MIX09.com website with passport or open ID”
    • “tag the sessions so it is easier to choose a theme and follow it”

    For PDC09, we decided to invest in a single online platform that addresses this feedback and allows us to reuse and evolve it for both MIX and PDC. The platform is being developed by the same group that built Channel 9 and MIX Online, and it uses Oxite as its foundation.

    Here are some of the things we’re doing:

    • To simplify the site, we’ve reduced the number of pages and navigation elements, and we’ve made the most important information more prominent. We went through a complete process to identify the right information architecture, and Tim Aidlin’s post, Designing the PDC09 Experience, gives additional context and insight.
    • Because we’ve heard that session management is important, we’ve tried to make it easier to find, filter, plan, and share the sessions that interest you.
      • A list of “Featured Sessions” is prominently displayed on the home page of the site. We try to publish new sessions around the first of each month, and this hand-picked list is usually from the most recent batch.
      • All workshops and sessions are tagged with their primary technologies, related topics, and general themes. Click the “show tags” link on our Sessions page to expose and filter using the tag list.
      • Each workshop and session has a details page with comments. This is a great way to provide feedback to the presenter ahead of the event or to ask questions after-the-fact.
      • In the coming weeks, we’ll enable new functionality that makes it easy to pick your favorite sessions and add them to a personal agenda. Behind the scenes, we’ll use this data to gauge the popularity of each session so we can schedule them in appropriately-sized rooms. So, the more you use the tool, the better we can make the in-person experience. Then, when we assign rooms and time slots closer to the event, you’ll be able to modify your schedule and coordinate an overall conference attack plan.
    • Our Speakers page shows an alphabetical and searchable list of everyone who is speaking at the event, including a short bio and an optional photo. When a speaker’s name is clicked, you’ll see the list of sessions they’re presenting.
    • We’ve integrated with Live ID so you don’t have to create a new identify or profile just to interact with the site. Plus, logging-in with your Live ID makes it possible for you to save the list of your favorite sessions.
    • Like MIX09, we’ll stream the keynotes live and display #pdc09-related tweets. The team is investigating ways to filter out spurious tweets, spam, retweets, bots, etc. so the feed isn’t cluttered with useless information. Our events have proven to be trending topics on Twitter, and as a result, they draw a lot of attention…some of it unwanted.
    • We’ll also be releasing a mobile optimized version of the site that makes it easier to navigate the physical conference. It’ll show an abbreviated version of the sessions that have been added to your agenda, a list of all sessions, important news, and logistical information like maps.
    • Last, we’ll make it easy to download keynote and session content after the event. We’ve learned that many of you like the “all you can eat” plan, so we’ll do our best to make this a simple scenario.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to provide both in-person and online attendees with an experience that makes it easy to plan, organize, navigate, consume, and share the content that matters most. Hopefully, we’ve struck the right balance.

    As always, we’d love your feedback. Did we miss anything? What would you prioritize?

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